Even though the general municipal election is less than a week away, most of the attention at Wednesday’s Cambria County Democratic Party picnic was on the spring primaries.
Candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and the U.S. House of Representatives attended the event at the Solomon Run fire hall.
“The turnout is fantastic, especially for an off-year election, but I think what’s happening is that people are recognizing that they’re getting energized for next year, for 2014. Both congressional, but I think more important, gubernatorial seems to be on everybody’s mind,” said Heath Long, the party’s county chairman.
Both Democratic candidates in next year’s 12th Congressional District race participated: Erin McClelland of Westmoreland County and Col. John Hugya of Jenner Township.
McClelland spoke critically about current Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, who recently voted against a bill to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling because he felt the plan failed to address important budgetary issues.
“Really, right now, we’re very concerned about the effect of the shutdown, the general attitude in Washington and what’s going on there,” McClelland said.
“The information has been released that the shutdown has cost us 120,000 jobs and $24 billion. That’s not creating jobs. That’s not fiscally conservative.
“I think that we need to really emphasize in this district that it’s one thing to have conservative values,” McClelland said. “It’s another thing to hijack the American government and hijack those conservative values, bastardize them and turn them into something that is completely ridiculous and absurd because you want to punish Americans because you lost a (presidential) election in 2012.”
Hugya, a former Marine and chief of staff for former Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, has been busy building an infrastructure for his campaign.
“I’ve been raising money,” Hugya said. “You can’t flesh out a campaign until you get enough money to make it happen. I’ve got everything lined up.”
Katie McGinty, a candidate for governor, made multiple stops in the region before mingling with local party members at the picnic.
“I think Johnstown is a community that represents a lot of the promise that we have in Pennsylvania,” said McGinty, former head of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“Whether it is military and defense-related jobs, whether it is in the energy industry or whether it’s in some of the beginnings around the life sciences industry, all of those have roots here in Johnstown.
“But what we need to do is invest in Johnstown in the promise that we have here to grow the economy and create jobs. I’m in this race for one reason and one reason only, and that’s jobs,” McGinty said.
Two lieutenant governor candidates attended.
Mark Critz, a Johnstown resident, is seeking the office after previously serving as the 12th district’s congressman.
“I think I’m doing real well,” Critz said.
“Western Pennsylvania, it’s my home base and everything looks like it’s going real well. I’ll tell you what, in the rural counties of Pennsylvania, they’re a lot like here. I talk to them. I talk about their issues and it resonates because their issues are our issues. They’re not exactly the same, but very similar, so I feel very comfortable across the entire state.”
Critz was joined by another lieutenant governor candidate, Brad Koplinski, a Harrisburg city councilman.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.